There was a time, pre-kids, pre-marriage, pre-Houston, pre-asthma, when I was a smoker. I took it up in college to satisfy a serious need for vice. That and for something to do during breaks in classes. It was never one of those buy by the carton-full, wake up thinking cigarettes, strike out in the middle of the night for a pack, kind of addictions. I kicked it pretty handily a few years later, married and having recently purchased a condo whose carpeting and poor circulation brought to the fore my apparent allergy to the cat I'd owned for four years. My lung capacity, reduced to nil, somehow dampened the appeal of the cigarette buzz, and it was an easy tradeoff to make for the promise of a wheeze-free lifestyle.
But the accoutrements. There was the lighter, cool and scary, looking uncannily like a mini flamethrower. Even pre-9/11 I didn't dare bring it near an airport. And the cigarette case, just a simple metal tin that would hold all twenty in two neat little rows. When They talk about the glamorization of smoking, it's this stuff that they're really referring to. The lighter and case were dangerous and sexy. The cigarettes themselves… meh. So when I restructured this particular vice out of my life, the hardest part was boxing up the paraphernalia. But that's probably just my own version of addiction.
It's been a near-decade of family-building since then, and when I unboxed the cigarette case after our last move, I saw it differently. If I was struck with a sudden urge to smoke, it was only so the case could see some action again. I just had too much fondness for it to be stashed in a drawer or tossed or given away. And so, while I examined it for possible re-uses, it struck me. I had The Best Idea I've Ever Had. An eight-pack of crayons would fit perfectly in one half of the case, the other half ideal for holding little bits of discarded paper, business cards, anything one could take a crayon to. And there I had it. The perfect little on-the-go kid diversion kit.
This year, for holiday kid-gifting, I decided to bring The Best Idea I've Ever Had to the masses. I opted for Altoids-style tins over actual cigarette cases, simply because they were easier to source. However, an assortment of your typical crayons doesn't really fit into the candy tins. And putting twenty cents worth of crayons in a tin with some discarded business cards isn't much of a gift. So this is where I went a little crazy with ambition. I could mold my own crayons using one of those silicone ice cube trays. And stitch together little moleskine-y notebooks. And the wholesale tins need some kind of embellishment… chalkboard paint. Which of course needs chalk, which would also need molding. The easiest part would be cutting felt swatches for an eraser.
The Best Idea I've Ever Had has been in progress for months. Many, many months of working in fits and starts, sometimes melting down crayons, sometimes cursing over the consistency of the chalk, sometimes scrounging for cardboard to cover the notebooks, sometimes painting and sanding and repainting the tins, sometimes being overwhelmed by the whole endeavor and pushing it aside for weeks. Enthusiasm and inspiration come and go as I take on other projects that are either more pressing or smaller in scope. But the other day, as I assembled another little batch of notebooks, I got really excited about it again. Something about lining up the notebooks, clad in cut-up cracker boxes and artist tape, finally having enough of each component to see it all together, made me think how much I would have wanted this as a kid. A compact box full of miniature goodness to be squirreled away in pockets or stored under pillows as munitions in the childish, flashlit rebellion of staying up later than you're supposed to. Who knew I could package all that in a little kit?